matt (hbergeronx) wrote,

on plutonium and fearmongering.

The Bush administration has just announced that for the first time since the end of the cold war, they will be producing Pu-238. News reports are carrying this story as production of a "highly radioactive substance, a speck of which can give you cancer". Plutonium is reported to be one of the most deadly poisons in the world. I used to accept this as truth. Then I found out:

As a poison, plutonium is probably less poisonous than cyanide, possibly less poisonous than Tylenol or caffeine. No one has ever died of plutonium poisoning.

Pu-238 is a strong alpha-emitting radiation source. In order to protect yourself from alpha radiation, a few sheets of paper or a sheet of aluminium foil would be sufficient.

Less botulinum toxin is needed to kill you, than the minimum dose of plutonium thought to give you a significantly increased chance of cancer in your lifetime.

News, or FUD? I agree that it is the responsible citizen's obligation to constantly question and evaluate the value of technology and mechanization. However, when given highly biased information from both the left and the right, how can one make responsible, informed decisions? Should all decision-making always be based on worst-case-scenario beliefs?

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